‘People Are Dying!’

“People are dying! They are dying!” And apart from Jesus, people are desperate to fix this in absurd ways.
on Mar 29, 2019

What stories are we telling ourselves about the reality of death and dying in our world?

This week, I heard this lament from a young political influencer:

“People are dying! They are dying! This is about American lives, and it should not be partisan. Science should not be partisan.”

No, I’ll not even address the controversial of climate change. I won’t even address the particular legislation this leader had proposed.

You could be skeptical. Maybe this leader doesn’t truly believe what she’s saying. Perhaps it’s just a cover for socialistic power-grabs. In other words, a leader who wants to nationalize industry would believe in this, even if human activity were not altering global climate.

People rage against death and they don’t know why

Instead, let’s presume this leader was legit.

Let’s presume she is actually in grief because, as she believes, people are dying!” from climate change.

If that’s true, I wonder how much people are using climate change as a “language” to express a far greater fear.

The fear of death and dying.

And no political cause, no economic changes, no switch in party governance, will change that.

No matter what law you pass, the mortality rate will stay at 100 percent.

You can prevent all that carbon from escaping into the atmosphere. People will still die from hurricanes. From mudslides, earthquakes, volcanoes. And they’ll die from accidents, cancer, heart disease, depression leading to suicide, and murder.

All of that horror is hard enough to contemplate with a biblical Christian worldview.

I can’t even imagine how someone can deal with the horror without this worldview.

For example, a person who does not see the world in terms of biblical revelation may end up making largely atheistic assumptions about the world.1 But by the tenets of atheism, you cannot logically rage against death. In their own worldview, death has always “existed.” To rage at death, you may as well yell at the rock on which you stub your toe. Or scream at the void of outer space because you feel you’re owed oxygen.

So instead—again, assuming the best here—such a person grabs for whatever religious beliefs she can. The person doesn’t care about consistency. She is desperate for some response to her own quiet, creeping sense of terror. She must deal with this flailing desperation. And she must answer that silent shriek that something, anything, should be done about this terrible death and suffering!

Well, Jesus Christ has already dealt with it. Not by the minuscule action of passing a human law. Instead, by his death and resurrection, he fulfilled the divine law that sin leads to death and suffering.

Anyone who ignores that truth, or calls it lunacy, will be forced into even greater silliness. In some cases, they’ll actually start to believe the absurd notion that mere human legislation—no matter how costly—could actually do something about the fact that people are dying.

  1. In the original version of this article, I referred here to “the consistent materialist.” A friend pointed out that (in summary) the argument ended up self-defeating. That’s because I then went on to say, effectively, “the materialist is not really a materialist.” That, coupled with the implication that any particular person is a “materialist” (when these are actually very rare) rendered the label confusing at best.
E. Stephen Burnett explores fantastical stories for God’s glory as publisher of Lorehaven.com and its weekly Fantastical Truth podcast. He coauthored The Pop Culture Parent and creates other resources for fans and families, serving with his wife, Lacy, in their central Texas church. Stephen's first novel, a science-fiction adventure, launches in 2025 from Enclave Publishing.
  1. Honestly, for people that don’t believe in God, it’s probably easier to shrug death and pain off as ‘just the way things are’. Either that or they just strive to eliminate it using science. What probably frustrates people about religion is that they don’t think it lives up to its promises of ways to make things better, avert calamities, etc. Obviously that isn’t the best way for someone to see the world, and they usually will avoid pain still, but the dynamic of people being able to shrug things off easier without religion is still at play regardless.

    As for the politician, well, that kind of brings to mind the fact that guilt tripping is a pretty common manipulation tactic. A closely related one is accusing one’s opponents of being the thing that will doom the world. That manipulation tactic isn’t always used on purpose, but it is very common. Unfortunately, it’s just part of human nature, and we need to be aware of it, otherwise we’ll be pressured into doing things because we feel bad/worried, not because we’ve actually thought through the issue and decided on the actual right thing to do.

What say you?